Jewish Journal


February 5, 2009

Remaking a staple of the Jewish community


The federation model of blue-blood community agencies all being supported by one umbrella organization is a staple of American Jewish life. Jewish federations exist in communities big and small, providing office space and serving as a central fundraiser for key service providers, particularly those helping the needy. In some cities, the federations also serve as quasi community governments and their leaders as representatives to the greater Jewish community.

But in Los Angeles the community has long since outgrown the federation model.

The new chairman of the L.A. federation’s board, Stanley Gold, took over last January with the stated goal of turning the umbrella organization upside down and preparing it for the future.

“It is largely irrelevant,” Gold said at the time. “I’m gonna make it relevant. Gonna make it relevant to the donor community. Gonna make it relevant to the Los Angeles community. And gonna make it relevant to most of the Jewish community. The alternative is a slow dissipation. I’m not going to let that happen.“

No one would argue that the federation looks pretty much the same today as it did a year ago. Its internal governance, its funding structure and relationship with the agencies have all changed; even its president announced that he will step aside at the end of the year. But the question some people are asking—inevitably—is whether Gold’s efforts will be good for the Jews.

My story about these changes for this week’s Jewish Journal picks up after the jump:

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